Yom Kippur was different this year.
Every year at high holiday services, my synagogue offers a variety of group aliyot. Congregants can self-select to go up and get a special blessing for various life situations or events. For example, there’s usually a call for all the new parents to come up and get their babies blessed. There’s always a prayer of healing for people suffering from illnesses of all kinds, too.
I always go up for that one. For years, it seemed like a wonderful validation of my feelings (the rabbi said depression is real! I deserve blessings! I deserve a cookie!). This year, however, I just…couldn’t.
Sitting in the pews, hungry, I thought: Am I going to be going up for the same blessing 30 years from now? I had just gotten an inkling that a new health problem was on the horizon–should I just add that one to the list, too?
So I didn’t go. Instead, I decided to make active changes this New Year–to go earn those blessings myself. The next week, I went to the doctor like a middle-aged grownup.
And, oh, boy, did I regret it.
I’d been to urgent care a couple of times in 2013, and, both times, I’d gotten weirdly high blood pressure readings. Both times, I chalked this up to “well, yeah, I feel terrible. Why do you think I’m at the hospital?”. The second time, however, the doctor I saw encouraged me to start tracking my blood pressure, just to see if this was a pattern.
It is totally a pattern. I have high blood pressure, for basically no reason (except genetic predisposition and heredity and diet and lifestyle). It’s high for my BMI, it’s high for my age, it’s just high.
(You know, I was just feeling self-indulgently depressed that I was never going to be “precocious” again. But look at me with the overachieving. If I try, I can probably get these blood pressure scores to the 99th percentile.)
If I don’t get my blood pressure to more or less normal on a more or less regular basis by around December, my doctor would like me to start taking medication to avoid it getting higher and resulting in stroke or something else awesome. The reason why this sounds terrible to me (besides stroke) is that I come from a long line of blood pressure sufferers, and I know blood pressure medication. Basically all BP meds have very strong, life-changing side effects for some reason. You find the one that sucks the least, and you take it forever.
This sounds awful to me. I’d rather just, you know, not have high blood pressure.
So I decided to try to lower it on my own. My doctor suggested I stop doing three things immediately:
Stop drinking all the alcohols all the time.
Stop eating in restaurants, which is our household’s primary method of recreation.
Stop eating so much takeout (and salumi), which has been our household’s secondary method of recreation since I started working full-time outside the home.
The reason behind these immediate NOPEs is not necessarily that my doctor wishes to reduce my overall fabulousness (though I’m not ruling that out), but that sodium and alcohol clearly affect blood pressure. Salt is what makes restaurant food so irresistible. We’ve spent years telling ourselves that the food we eat is expensive, so it must be healthy; part of being a grownup is to stop these terrible, delicious lies. My doctor felt that these NOPEs should be an easy fix to get started.
Spoiler alert: NOPE.
I want to eat what I want, and I recognize that’s not an adult sentiment but it is a real sentiment. Food + drink is my fun thing! I don’t have time to craft, or read, or run anymore (around 2 hours of daily commute sucks the discretionary time out of the schedule) but I gotta eat, so I’ve been making eating pretty amazing.
To be honest, I’ve been handling this change by just not really eating that much. I catch up on the weekends. I have eaten sushi with basically no soy sauce. I try to eat a bunch of fruit. But food doesn’t seem as fun as it used to be. I can’t eat what I really want, so eh. Why eat?
There are at least three problems with this way of thinking.
1) I’m not having any fun, so I’m miserable to be around.
Greg: Hey, do you want some…
Marcella: I CAN’T EAT THAT I HATE YOU
1) I’m starving, so I have no energy, so I’m miserable to be around.
Greg: Want to open your eyes/sit up/get out of bed?
Marcella: NO I HATE YOU
2) It’s not reducing my blood pressure much, which makes me miserable to be around.
Greg: Did you see that tweet from Kanye…
Marcella: I AM NOT EATING SOPRESSATA FOR NO REASON I HATE YOU
After doing some research, I’m beginning to think the NOPEs are not enough. They were all I heard when my doctor was talking, but NOPE is all I hear most of the time. In general, I tend to say NOPE! to life; I cherish a long, detailed list of things I hate. As a sarcastic and pessimistic human, being happy while eating delicious food seemed too good to be true. It makes sense that life would never be fun again. Why was life fun, anyway? I must have been doing something wrong.
I’m pretty sure my doctor gave me a bunch of YEPs. There are active things I can try to lower my blood pressure. Positive things! I’m pretty sure all of them involve forms of positivity. I’m distorting my face into an unpleasant approximation of a smile now, but I also really, really do want to fix this problem, because I really, really don’t want to get sick.
Maybe NOPE isn’t working. Is there room for YEP in my life?